Why Do Most Countries Including the US Drive on the Right?

Updated on January 20, 2019
livingsta profile image

Livingsta is a writer who writes about anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her, always putting forth her best effort and focus.

Picture above shows right hand driving !
Picture above shows right hand driving !

Research says that almost two-thirds to three-quarters of the world drive on the right, while only one third to a quarter of the world drive on the left. Also, it is mostly the British colonies that drive on the left. This is quite surprising, but they have valid reasons for driving on the left-hand side of the road.

In my research, I found that:

  • 66.1% of the world’s people live in right-hand traffic countries
  • 33.9% of the world’s people live in left-hand traffic countries
  • 72% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the right
  • 28% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the left

Red colour depicts the countries with right-hand traffic and Blue colour shows the countries with left-hand traffic
Red colour depicts the countries with right-hand traffic and Blue colour shows the countries with left-hand traffic

Why Do We Drive On The Right in the U.S?

During the early days, almost everybody traveled on the left side of the road. People found it easier and correct because of the way the societies were back then. A vast majority of people were right-handed. Swordsmen preferred to keep to the left so that they could use their right arm to defend themselves. It also allowed them to wear the sheath for a sword, dagger, or bayonet (also called the scabbard), on their left arm. That way it wouldn't hit other people they pass by. It was also easier for them to mount the horses from the left rather than from the right, that way they had to ride the horses on the left-hand side of the road.

Later on the in the late 1700s, France and US started using wagons to transport farm products. The wagons were driven by several horses. In order to keep control of the team, the driver sat on the horse which was to the left, rear side of the group, so he could use his right arm to handle the group. In order for him to keep an eye on the road and maintain the position on the road for oncoming vehicles, the wagons had to be driven on the right-hand side of the road. Also according to history, the French revolution that took place in 1789 had a huge impact on right hand driving in Europe (aristocrats driving on the left wanted to be in level with the peasants who were driving on the right) and in 1794, right-hand driving was made a rule in Paris and a year before that in 1793 in Denmark too.

Britain, however, did not follow right-hand driving, and in 1835 left-hand driving was made mandatory in Britain. Also, countries that were part of the British empire follow left-hand driving, which includes India, Australasia and the former British colonies in Africa (Egypt is an exception).

Japan, which was not part of the British Empire, also drives on the left, for reasons dating back to the Edo period in history.

Years before when the English had colonized North America, the colonies drove on the left following the English customs. After independence from the British, they moved to right-hand driving. Right hand driving law was passed for the drivers first in Pennsylvania in 1792 and then later in New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813. Canada started right-hand driving only after the Second World War.

The power of driving right grew up as most European countries started driving on the right. American cars were designed to be driven on the right. Many countries imported American cars due to their reliability and being economical. As a result of this, those countries that imported American cars had to maintain right-hand driving because of the design.

Why the British Drive on the Left?

Great Britain also considered changing to right hand driving in the 1960s, but taking into account the expenses to change everything which would cost billions of pounds, the then Government used its power to stop Britain from going to right-hand driving. Today only four European countries drive left, while the rest drive right.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts / experiences. I do understand how you feel when you are so used to a particular type of driving.

      Thank you for the votes and all the shares. Hope you had a good day :-)

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Kathryn, thank you for reading. I am glad that you found this interesting. Hope you are well. Have a good day :-)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image


      5 years ago from Windsor, Connecticut

      I have always wondered about the reasons behind that, so this is a very interesting read! Thanks for looking into this for us, and sharing what you learned. Next, I will check out the British "driving on the left" hub.

      Have a wonderful day!

      ~ Kathryn

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      I found this hub extremely interesting as to the historical reasons why people started driving on the right or left. In Thailand people drive on the left. It initially was a little challenge for me when I brought my car from the States over to Thailand to drive. Without a passenger, it was extremely inconvenient paying tolls and passing on two lane roads. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning and Tweeting.

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi BkCreative, I can understand what you say. I hope you will get used to this as you travel to England often. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and experience. I am pleased that this information was interesting for you. Have a good day!

    • BkCreative profile image


      6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      As one who travels from the US to England quite often - it was a bit nerve wracking while in London because you really had to keep looking both ways so you wouldn't get mowed down. Then you are also supposed to walk on the left in London whereas here in NYC it is always "keep right!" And you're so right, many other places follow the right so it was easy for me to travel everywhere without a thought to traffic flow - but once in London - good grief! Then riding in a car with my cousin - I felt so disoriented. Yikes!

      Thanks for an interesting hub.

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you DommaLeigh. I am glad it was useful :-)

      Have a good weekend!

    • DommaLeigh profile image


      6 years ago

      I liked your hub. I never really gave much thought to why we drive on which side of the road.

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Vellur, I am glad it was useful! Thank you for reading and the appreciation!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      6 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting information, now I know. Thanks for sharing.

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you @Rajan Jolly!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting information. Voted up.

    • livingsta profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you eHealer for your appreciation!

    • eHealer profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great job! I always wondered who was the road god and sanctioned right or left. Thank you very much for answering my question! Voted Up.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, axleaddict.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://axleaddict.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)